Chapter 58: Trouble Escalates
“Enough!” Gu Yunlan sighed softly. There’s no point in blaming anyone. She glanced at the sky outside, then said, “Stronghold Master Ma! It’s dangerous to descend the mountains this late. Would you be willing to lodge us for the night?”
“No problem!” Ma Haicheng easily nodded his head, then yelled out, “Second Brother! Prepare three of our best rooms!”
“Alrighty!” A voice yelled back from outside, followed by the sound of receding footsteps.
“You guys can discuss your personal problems by yourself tonight; I don’t want to deal with it anymore! However, no matter how you all settle it, it is set in stone that we will bring back those eighteen girls.” Gu Yunlan’s words were unwavering. Turning a blind eye to the problems they’ve caused was already benevolent enough.
The three of them, Li Yimeng included, looked at one another. They talked about their emotions for so long, yet she still threw their problems back in their face?
“Big Sister, don’t you care about me anymore?” Li Zhuting’s complexion suddenly turned deathly pale. Was Big Sister Gu disappointed in her?
Hearing this, Xuanyuan Meng was dissatisfied. We faced so many hardships in dealing with your little drama. How could you see this as being uncaring? She opened her mouth and spoke, “Miss Li, it’s not that I’m scolding you. Chief Li is here, so this is your family’s business. Our family’s Yunlan can only interfere so much! How did the saying go again? Even an honest official finds it hard to solve family disputes! Aiai, why are you crying again?”
“Have someone take us to our rooms! We too are tired!” Gu Yunlan’s head ached slightly as she stood up. She nodded towards Li Yiteng, then passed by the two the two bickerers to leave the room.
“Let’s go! I’ll show you the way!” Ma Haicheng scrambled to his feet and smiled apologetically, then dipped his head to say to Li Zhuting, “Zhuting, I’ll accompany your father for a proper talk!”
“Yunlan! Wait for me!” Xuanyuan Meng shrugged her shoulders at Li Zhuting, then promptly backed out. The whining young lady was pitiful, yet irritating, always clinging to someone. So Yunlan was much cuter!
“En!” Li Zhuting nodded with pouting lips and watched as the three people left.
They exited the drawing room and leisurely headed to their rooms. Gu Yunlan suddenly asked, “I don’t think you’re that hot-headed, Stronghold Master Ma, so why did you follow the note’s order right after seeing it?”
Ma Haicheng smiled wanly. “Back then, I was constantly moving between the Li Family and the stronghold. Although it was hard, I truly felt happy. But when Chief Li disapproved of our relationship, I was suddenly engulfed by rage. Everyone in the stronghold knew what happened.. So on that day, as soon as I saw that slip of paper, I hardened my resolve in desperation. So why would I spare concern for anything else?”
Gu Yunlan knitted her brows and didn’t ask any more. Since he refuses to talk, then there is no point in asking. Whenever there’s someone pulling the strings, they will end up revealing themselves.
The three of them spent the rest of the walk in silence, not speaking a word until they got to their rooms. When they arrived, Ma Haicheng smiled slightly, “Miss Gu, your two rooms are here; you should go rest! I’ll be going to persuade the Chief.”
Gu Yunlan nodded, “Many thanks, Stronghold Master Ma!”
“No problem!” Ma Haicheng hurriedly waved his hands. “Shall we all eat dinner together?”
“We’ll just eat in our rooms! They still don’t know that I’m here. It is best not to stir any trouble!” Gu Yunlan hooked up the edges of her lips, her pupils flashing.
“Then, I shall take my leave!” Ma Haicheng nodded, then turned to leave.
“Hold on! Ma Haicheng!” Xuanyuan Meng hurriedly yelled as she suddenly remembered.
“Yes?” Ma Haicheng looked at her with a slightly puzzled expression.
“We have a friend outside. Would we be able to let him in?” Xuanyuan Meng was all smiles. She was a bit sorry to ask this, but she was afraid that Yiran would have to wait too long.
“Then… let’s go together! I’m afraid that he would be suspicious of me!” Ma Haicheng looked at the two of them, hesitating for a moment. So there was more. What kind of people could this Young Mistress of the Gu Family be friends with? To think they could so easily escape the notice of his mountain stronghold’s watch. Looks like he needs to tighten the defences!
Gu Yunlan nodded and watched the two leave. Only then did she turn around to enter her room.
After less than half an hour, a knock sounded from the outside.
“Come in!” Gu Yunlan’s voice was calm.
Xuanyuan Meng, followed by Bai Yiran, entered, closing the door on their way in. There was nobody inside. Xuanyuan Meng was astonished. She clearly heard her voice coming from inside the room, but where did Gu Yunlan go?
“Behind the screen to the right!” Gu Yunlan called out to them.
Hearing this, the two walked over, feeling pleasantly surprised. Walking around the screen, the view before them shone. This half was a porch, with a wooden floorboard beneath them and a table leaning against the railing outside. On its other three sides were three chairs, with Gu Yunlan currently sitting in one with her back facing the sun.
They immediately walked over to her. Xuanyuan Meng sat directly across from Gu Yunlan and looked outside. The porch was actually an overhang, dangling at least two meters high. All sorts of little plants grew up from the ground below. Off in the distance, Qing Mountain was a mixture of red and yellow, punctuated by fluffs of white clouds. The sight was more beautiful than she could’ve ever imagined.
“How beautiful! That Stronghold master Ma really knows how to live it up!” Xuanyuan Meng couldn’t help but gasp.
“How is it?” Bai Yiran sat down next to Gu Yunlan and asked, “Mengmeng, did they agree to let the girls go?”
“Yeah! His goal is actually Li Zhuting!” Gu Yunlan pressed on her forehead. “The problem has gotten even worse. Put aside the girls being missing for now. Taking the eighteen girls home is easy, but the problem is, how will they ever get married? Their situation has already circulated throughout Gu City. No one would be willing to marry a girl who has lived in a bandit’s nest for half a year!”
“Ai! That’s right! Everyone will doubt their purity. They will have no place in society!” Bai Yiaran poured out a cup of tea. After laying low for so long, he was dying of thirst.
Xuanyuan Meng turned her head, raising her brow. “Nightspring and I will head to the military camp in a few days. Let’s have them come along! We’ll form a legion of women! Unstoppable and without adversaries!”
“Don’t stir up trouble!” Gu Yunlan glanced at her sideways. “Father is still recovering, so I haven’t reported my intent to inherit his position yet. If a legion of women suddenly appears, it would be truly odd if the higher-ups don’t cause an uproar!”
“Humph! Won’t help us out?? Then we’ll do it on our own. An independant legion!” Xuanyuan Meng said excitedly.
“In your dreams!” Bai Yiran poured out a cup of water for her, then said to Gu Yunlan, “We’ll decide after Xuanyuan comes back! He was sent by the higher-ups, so the problem will resolve itself as long as he agrees.”
Gu Yunlan nodded and lifted her tea cup to take a sip. There’s no other choice. She audibly sighed, “When the situation here is settled, then… then the other side…ai!”
“Yunlan, can’t you think about this for a moment?” Bai Yiran dipped his finger into the tea cup and drew out on the table with its water, “If the rest of the missing girls are with Jiang Chen, then what? It’d be easy for him to get blood. He would need it even more after getting injured in that fight with Xuanyuan, especially the blood of virgins. If that’s the case, then the situation is clear…”
Gu Yunlan knitted her brow as he continued, “It may also be, someone arranged all this long ago. Getting Zhuting in trouble, Ma Haicheng being at the Zi Family’s gates for that chance meeting… That person probably calculated that they would fall in love, then used Ma Haicheng to kidnap the young girls…”
Xuanyuan Meng also followed up with interest, “That person behind the scenes.. his true goal is to fish in troubled waters: kidnap the girls and give Jiang Chen the chance to recover his strength.”
“Then what is their goal? Why would Jiang Chen’s recovery help them?” Gu Yunlan immediately followed up.
“To defeat Xuanyuan!”
“To defeat my brother!”
They both said in unison. They then immediately turned to Gu Yunlan. “His target is you!”
Gu Yunlan jolted. Me? For her Pure Yin Physique? People who know about it are few; Bai Linlong for one, it’s unknown whether Yangjin knows, the Thousand-Year shop’s shopkeeper, then there’s them, and there’s also that Jiang Chen!
“Looks like Yunlan has turned into a delicious steamed bun this time!” Xuanyuan Meng giggled in her sleeves.
“If it’s Bai Linlong, she can’t even touch the light. So then, where could this helper come from? That Thousand-Year Shop’s shopkeeper probably wouldn’t do this; he and Xuanyuan have a good relationship.” Gu Yunlan shook her head as she narrowed down the possible culprits.
“Don’t forget, her nest is directly in the Zi Family’s grounds!” Xuanyuan Meng reminded her. She once heard Yunlan say that this Bai Linlong’s entire body was made of jade-like bones. Aside from Big Brother and her, who had conflicts with her before, nobody else was a match for Bai Linlong.
“Zi Luolan wouldn’t! I trust her!” Gu Yunlan said confidently. When she was in such dire straits in her previous life, Zi Luolan was even willing to take her in. Regardless, Yunlan has nothing for her to covet, even more than in the previous life.
“Is there no chance that it’s Yangjin? He isn’t a good person!” Bai Yiran asked. That man’s ambitions were never small. He would circle around the Miao Village every day, so there’s no way he wouldn’t know about Yunlan’s physique.
Gu Yunlan nodded. “There’s always a possibility. But there shouldn’t be many people who knew about Xuanyuan and Jiang Chen’s fight two years ago!”
“Yunlan! There are many!” Xuanyuan Meng’s face color blanched. “I remember Grandpa saying before that when my brother and Jiang Chen fought furiously, even the colors of Heaven and Earth changed. As for what purpose, it is still unknown!”
“Alright! Let’s stop talking about such headaches. I’m hungry! Drinking some wine and eating under the light of the setting sun sounds great!” Bai Yiran changed the topic. He looked off into the distance with half-closed eyelids.
Gu Yunlan nodded. The scenery was really not bad. If they were able to stop thinking about those annoying people, it would help them forget their worries. Unfortunately, it goes against human nature; we are unable to put our worries aside.
On the second day, the three of them were notified that Chief Li agreed to the couple’s marriage. As for how Ma Haicheng persuaded Li Yiteng, they didn’t know.
It’s just that the marriage couldn’t be held at the Li Family’s household. If rumors circulate that his daughter was married off to a bandit who kidnapped people, then the name of Marshal Gu would be smeared. It may also end up causing problems for Marshal Gu, so the marriage ceremony would have to be held in the mountain stronghold.
This excuse, Gu Yunlan snorted disdainfully at it. Isn’t it more like he feared it would ruin the Li Family’s reputation? The military is known for being strict. A scandal as big as this would definitely cause Li Yiteng to be stripped of his military rank. Of course, to give face to her father, she could overlook this much. However, she isn’t that quick to forgive. Retribution is still needed.
“Yunlan! Ma Haicheng was looking for you just now, but you weren’t awake. He wanted me to tell you that the wedding ceremony will be today, and he invited you to stand witness!”
“Today?” Gu Yunlan gaped in astonishment. They had originally planned on leaving the mountain today. Now, early in the morning, she gets news that the ceremony is today, and that she will be its witness as well…